Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Strawberry blond! That’s the shade the maple is this year.  I tried for just that color once, didn’t I? Don’t think I managed it, Marnie thought as she approached the house from the paddock. She missed their horses, as she did during every morning walk she’d taken since they’d sold them. Oh, damn this being old!  Marnie wiped mud off her boots on the back doormat and went through to the kitchen where her sister-in-law was drinking coffee and talking, talking, talking to Stephen.

“ I will worry, Steve! I fly in three hours and I haven’t convinced you stubborn fools to sell this place and join me in Ocala. You’ll molder up here in this lonely place, missing all the fun, and I suppose I’m just to take that answer as final and be on my worrying way. Really, I could wring your wrinkled old necks.”

Stephen answered, “We have a home we love and don’t play bridge, nor do we want to learn. Accept it as our happy choice, Ellen. We don’t want to sell. We are as deeply rooted here as the white pines around us.”

They drove Ellen to Albany for her flight to Florida. Ellen’s travel outfit made her look twice as plump, bundled up as she was against the “horrid” cold of October in the mountains, with a cotton blouse and slacks under all the woolies for the return to her beloved southern sun. Sandals were tucked into her carry-on.

During the drive home, Marnie relaxed, relieved the yearly siege was over. After all, they’d been settled in the country since closing their pediatric clinic almost eighteen years ago.  Why ever should they “retire” again? And in Florida?

“You’d better drive, dear.” Stephen’s voice woke her. “I’m dangerously sleepy.”

After they changed seats, Stephen fell deeply asleep. Marnie took his hand and gasped at his cold skin. His fingers had a blue tinge. So, she thought, it’s time already.

Just past five, she helped him into bed and gave him another nitro to put under his tongue. He was pale, clammy, and, she sensed, in much more pain than he’d admitted to. She left him briefly to see to a few things she needed to do, but soon came upstairs bearing a tray with a bottle of champagne, two flutes, and their stash of pills.

They toasted each other, their long, mostly happy lives, and their determination to go together. Marnie had left letters for Ellen and their three children for the postman to pick up in the morning-letters written by both of them earlier that month, after she’d learned that her cancer was back. There was one to the police as well. They washed down their sedatives with the vintage champagne, even got a little giggly, then snuggled under the covers. Whatever came next, they would be Marnie and Stephen, together and themselves, ready to meet it. Or, as the case might be, Marnie thought, not themselves at all, but then, what would it matter?

No comments: